Can ‘biodegradability’ of adsorbents constitute an ‘Achilles’ heel’ in real-world water purification? Perspectives and opportunities

Ackmez Mudhoo, Gaurav Sharma, Dinesh Mohan, Charles U. Pittman, Mika Sillanpää

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

5 Citations (Scopus)


Recently, the synthesis of biodegradable adsorbents has attracted research interest. However, the use of a biodegradable material for adsorbing aqueous water contaminants can raise potential contradictions. Here, we describe aspects of biodegradable adsorbents intended for water purification that are perceived as contradictory. We present an insight into the research directions which may lead to a new breed of intelligent biodegradable adsorbents intended for industrial water remediation. Our discussions are organized as follows: (1) the nexus of adsorbent biodegradability and reusability is first explained, (2) an analysis of biodegradation of biodegradable adsorbents in microbe-rich environments is then presented, and (3) discussions are provided on the potential practical issues and the related research opportunities for using biodegradable adsorbents in real-world wastewaters. Based on these discussions, we inferred the following: (1) precise tuning of the biodegradability of biodegradable adsorbents is required prior to their real-world application, (2) biodegradable adsorbents capable of intelligent functionality and structure modulations are needed, and (3) protection-deprotection strategies should be built into biodegradable adsorbents. Achieving the latter objectives requires extensive investigation that will elucidate the interactions of microorganisms with the adsorbent and other constituents in different types of contaminated waters and the extent of the resulting biodegradation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107321
JournalJournal of Environmental Chemical Engineering
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Biodegradable adsorbent
  • Microbial community
  • Micropollutant
  • Morphological change
  • Soil-compost milieu
  • Structural integrity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Process Chemistry and Technology


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